Tall and thin with legs for days, style icon Candy Darling knew how to entertain. Darling was a Warhol superstar who starred in Andy Warhol art films. More importantly today, she is considered an icon for her bravery as a trans person. She was a fragile beauty who led a life of parties, men and disappointments, but the one constant in her life was beauty. Even on her deathbed, Darling stayed true to who she was, a Hollywood glamour puss.
Born James (“Jimmy”) Lawrence Slattery in Long Island, Darling spent her childhood idolizing Old Hollywood. Inspired by the platinum-blonde hair and glamour of the 1940s and 1950s, Darling yearned to be a famous actress.
As she grew into adulthood, Darling secretly felt more comfortable as a woman. In the evenings, she would leave her home in Long Island for the excitement of Manhattan. There she could change her identity, socializing in the city’s gay scene dressed to the nines. This was in 1950s New York, a time that was extremely dangerous for those challenging gender norms.
Darling’s acting aspirations took off when she met Andy Warhol. Attracted to her outgoing personality and beauty, Warhol saw her potential as a Warholian star. While at The Factory, Darling starred in “Flesh” and “Women in Revolt”. Darling’s role in “Women in Revolt” is noted as a true representation of what she wanted to be, a fabulous and beautiful woman.
As her time at the Factory ended, she got the chance to star in the Tennessee Williams play, Small Craft Warnings in 1972. With her vulnerable personality and her soft voice, Darling was the ultimate Williams heroine.
At the young age of 29, Darling died of lymphoma. Her funeral was a star-studded event with Gloria Swanson saluting the coffin. The famous photo series “Candy Darling on her Deathbed” by Peter Hujar was taken while she was on her deathbed, posing in full hair and makeup.
With long platinum hair and kohl-rimmed eyes, Darling evoked Hollywood nostalgia. She rocked headscarves, long gowns, and lots of accessories and knew how to balance a lot of look on her long frame. Her style was a combination of reference and modern, she is a prime example of refined, chic style in 1970’s. She didn’t over-embellish, rather concentrated on silhouette and fabric.
In a time that limited free expressions of the LGBT community, she was brave and brilliant. As Darling once said, “There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth …You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.”